We are defined by our narratives, and our narratives can shape our way forward — to our future, and to our success. Helen Baker, Principal of Te Kura o Takaro, says,
“It’s not someone else’s story that we’ve captured. It’s our own story and that to me is where the strength of any Marau ā‐kura/Localised Curriculum is … that it is yours, it’s your school’s story, your people’s story … So that lives on … past any of us here and live in the hearts and minds of people which is where you really make change”
(Baker Pakiwaitara-Marau 2013)
Helena Baker highlights our stories and emphasises that our history needs to be reflected in our Marau ā-Kura/Localised Curriculum, so that students can see their history, and their stories in their learning, and in their curriculum.
I would like to share with you, as an example, our story, and how it shapes our Marauā-Kura/Localised Curriculum.
As our whakatauki tells us:
“Kua tawhiti kē to haerenga mai, kia kore e haere tonu. He nui rawa o mahi, kia kore e mahi tonu."
"You have come too far not to go further, you have done too much not to do more"
– Ta Himi Henare ( Sir James Henare ) Ngati Hine elder and leader
Moerewa is a service town for the surrounding farming industry, and its main industry is the freezing works. During the economic slump of the 1980s, many of the town's industries were badly affected, and unemployment soared. For this reason, the town's population has dwindled in recent years.
Moerewa is also known to locals and the wider Tai Tokerau region, as Tuna/Eel Town. As legend has it the giant eel, Tunapaea, gouged out the valleys and waterways of the local community. He travelled via Moerewa and down what is now known as the Taumarere river where he managed to escape his pursuers, the warriors of the neighbouring tribe, and make his way to Te Moana pikopiko i Whiti (centred on where the waters meet at Opua), and out to the open sea.
As part of Tunapaea’s journey to escape his pursuers, his violent writhing caused the water to cascade over a ravine and, with the bright sunlight shining on the watery mist, a rainbow was formed. That waterfall is still there today and is called Terere Aniwaniwa. Tunapaea never returned but his story remains permanently displayed in the local landscape.
Today the baby eels (elvers, tangariki) make their annual migration out to the Taumarere river from the oceans where they were born. For the elvers to get out to the sea from Moerewa they must join together in their hundreds and thousands to form a strong mass to help them to swim up the waterfall, Terere Aniwaniwa, and to swim against the tide out to the sea.
This is a huge feat for these baby eels the size of your small finger to swim up a huge waterfall and go against the tide to get out to the sea. Seems almost impossible. How could they do this? How could those tiny baby eels swim up a waterfall? To achieve this they need to work together. They depend on each other,and communicate with each other. They give and take, they support each other, they push and pull. All of this to go UP THE WATERFALL and swim AGAINST THE TIDE. A feat not taken likely, and a feat not achieved without working together.
My community knows only too well what it is to feel small like the elvers. We’re a small community that sometimes feel as though it doesn't really matter: that they are too small to have significant influence on the laws and policies of the day that affect us all; that they are too small to impact inequities in the workplace.
Moerewa community is, because of our story, our history, and the past that defines us, known for its social consciousness. We, like the elvers, join together to help each other, to communicate, push, pull, lift, carry and support each other. Moerewa is a community that knows and practices social justice, and is known for punching above its weight…our story, our history, tells us that this was predetermined for us. It gives us the courage and the knowledge to forge ahead through adversity. Through hardship we can do it. We can succeed.
In the past, the local people would assist the elvers by scooping them up in kete at the base of the falls and take them up-river to help them on their journey. This represents our tamariki in their formative years of development who have an individual and collective destiny to fulfil and are often faced with obstacles in their journey through life. Therefore it behoves the local community to work together and to focus the resources available that can assist our tamariki on this journey.
Our Ngati Hine proverb relating to the assistance given to the elvers is, ‘Kete riki, kete tana riki’ – ‘What the big kete don’t catch, the smaller ones will’. This refers to the large kete used to scoop up the elvers which sometimes fell through the cracks but were then caught by more finely-woven kete. This big kete, small kete image symbolises ‘everyone having a role to play’.
By sharing my own community’s narrative, I have illustrated how the narratives of every cultural location of a school tell its story in a way that can shape and inform its own Marau a-Kura. Do you know your community’s story?
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